WHEATON, IL (October 12, 2011) – More than 100 people participated in the recent Walk for Economic Empowerment, a fundraiser co-sponsored by Covenant World Relief (CWR) and other international organizations to benefit development work.
Members of Evangelical Covenant Church congregations from throughout the Chicago area, along with numerous North Park University students and staff from Covenant Offices, walked or ran the 5K course. Members of other organizations also were among the walkers.
The event was held in the Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton on October 1, one of several held over the preceding months across the country. All of the proceeds benefit development work designated by the different sponsoring organizations.
Covenanters raised funds for Fuentes Libres, a ministry that provides microfinance loans to marginalized families in Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as the Hindustani Covenant Church, part of the Evangelical Covenant Church in India.
Judy Peterson, campus pastor for North Park University, shared a challenging message with the walkers. It is important for every person to be mentally and spiritually prepared to act on another’s need before it becomes immediate, she said.
More than 40 percent of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day. Providing microfinance loans is one of the most efficient and effective means of empowering people living in poverty, says Dave Husby, CWR director. Access to business training and a small loan of $100 to $200 can enable poor individuals to start a new business or grow an existing one.
Fuentes Libres creates small communities of 12-20 women that are self-sufficient with a solid, self-replenishing financial pool from which the group can continue lending. These women are often unable to receive funding from other local banks or cannot afford the interest payments.
Neela, who is part of an economic self-help group through CWR and the Hindustani Church, is one of the many people who have benefited from the partnerships. The various components of the project include day care for pre-school age children, education, micro finance, vocational training, medical care, and women’s and men’s self-help groups (SHGs).
Each member of the SHGs has their own personal savings passbook and each saves between 40 to 60 cents per month. Most have been saving for three years. When asked how her life has been affected by participation in the self-help group, Neela said, “I now have enough funds for the happy and sad times,” meaning she has sufficient funds to cover celebrations like weddings and funerals.
Ashika, another woman in the community said, “Before I had no say in family matters, but now my husband respects me more and I participate with him in decision making.” Because of the savings, women have been able to access loans that have helped them start businesses such as making flower ornaments, making baskets, and selling vegetables.